Mold Illness is Difficult to Diagnose
Although mold can be an insidious, destructive toxin, linked to fatigue, depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, blindness and even death, the diagnosis is frequently missed. Plus, without removing the source of the mold, the illness cannot be cured.
Mold illness is a common, but poorly recognized cause of many debilitating symptoms. Most patients exhibit a whole list of issues and may have seen physicians for a disparate group of symptoms that include chronic fatigue, generalized pain, headaches, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sinusitis, rashes, and anxiety. Allopathic medicine doesn’t help and investigations by alternative physicians into hormone deficiencies, heavy metals, food allergies and Lyme don’t solve these patients’ problems, either. One environmental agent that can cause all of these problems and more —but which rarely seems to be considered here in sunny Arizona — is mold.
Mold biotoxins from Stachybotrys (black mold), Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium can cause many and varied symptoms that are often vague and concern many parts of the body because toxins can affect any body organ. In addition, because only 25 percent of the population appears to have a sensitivity to mold biotoxins (they cannot clear these toxins efficiently from the body), not everyone who gets exposed to mold in waterdamaged homes or office buildings, for example, will actually get symptoms. Often, the ones that do get symptoms are considered psychiatric and their symptoms are dismissed as not being real. A groundbreaking public health study, based on data from 5,882 adults in 2,982 households, has even found a highly significant association between damp, moldy homes and depression.
The first step to diagnosing mold illness is to suspect it, but most people usually see one doctor for their GI issues, another for their sinusitis and a third for their anxiety. No one puts it together that all the symptoms are being caused by mold, so the patient receives at least three different prescriptions, none of which solve the problem. Those that live in a house with mold and suffer from unexplained symptoms should consider getting more testing from a physician who is able to diagnose and treat chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS).
One easy way to screen for biotoxin illness is the visual contrast test, which can be taken online for a small cost at SurvivingMold. com/store1/online-screening-test. Positive results are not specific for mold illness — they can also be due to candida, Lyme, petroleum toxins, diabetes, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, positive test results should prompt further investigation by a physician knowledgeable in the field. Urine testing can show the presence of mold toxins, and is available at RealtimeLab. com. Because mold toxins cause inflammation through activation of cytokines, the cornerstone of diagnosis consists of a number of laboratory tests that are specific to the immune system, endocrine system and abnormal inflammation.
It’s impossible to get completely well in a house or office building that is spewing mold toxins, so the first line of treatment is removal from the source. Remediation by a specialist is needed to keep the problem from getting worse. Because the mold spores may be dispersed throughout the house like a fine mist, it’s sometimes necessary to get rid of clothing, linens, furniture and photos. Some people have left their houses and never returned.
The next step in treatment involves removing the toxins from the body. About 75 percent of the population has immune systems that can do this efficiently. Because the toxins are eliminated in drugs known as bile sequestrants, prescription medications such as cholestyramine or Welchol work well, and are the basis for all successful treatment. Natural substances that may also be useful are clay, activated charcoal, chlorella and zeolite. Fish oil can be extremely useful for the general inflammation.
Some physicians believe that many cases of ADD and learning disability in children can be traced to mold exposure, often in their schools. One study found 80 percent of Boston schools had excessive mold.
The major problem in mold illness is lack of awareness. Because OSHA has estimated that 60 percent of homes in the U.S. are water damaged, it is a very common illness. Until it becomes routine for both physicians and patients to suspect it, many people will continue suffer from the myriad symptoms it produces.
Mary Beth Ackerley, M.D., M.D.H, ABIHM is a board-certified psychiatrist, integrative and homeopathic physician. She specializes in the holistic treatment of mold, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and menopause through the use of amino acid therapy, hormone replacement, nutritional support and homeopathy, as well as allopathic meds. Ackerley was appointed by the governor to sit on the Arizona Board of Homeopathic and Integrated Medicine. Contact her at 520-299-5694, MaryMD@mypassion4health.com or MyPassion4Health.com.